It's the biggest release of Sankranti, and there's never a better time to be just another face in the crowd - there's a bonhomie as you jostle with the bursting masses, ask for some of the millions of the paper shreds in free circulation, and scream, bounce around and hoot in the perfect cacophony of the festive spirit as the curtain rises on the first-day-first-show of one of Tollywood's biggest stars. That you are at Sriramana at Amberpet is the icing - this is the real "mass", the people who make it look like Banjara Hills and Begumpet are but settlements.
In addition, the crowds know just when Venkatesh is about to enter. Oh boy, do they.
Lakshmi is all the hype actually leading to a good product. It helps that it stars Venkatesh, of course. Amongst the best actors of the Telugu screen, he sets the screen on fire in the dialogues and the action segments, tickles you even in anticipation of the comic scenes - he's perhaps the most talented at comedy among Telugu's lead heroes - and makes the women cry with impugnity in the emotional scenes. And when you are built like he is, the fights are reservoirs of adrenaline.
Lakshmi Narayana (Venkatesh) is an orphan who, along with his sister, is brought up by a small-scale industrialist, Rammohan Rao (Ranganath). It's a debt he chooses to repay with lifelong loyalty to the family, and painstakingly builds the industry into a thousand crore group, while simultaneously taking great care of his brothers and sisters as they grow up after their Dad's death. The entry of Venkatesh, with great hoopla as he responds to a call from his sister who is in trouble with some ruffians at college, drives the crowds crazy, and shows just why V V Vinayak is so successful with mass movies.
Lakshmi once fires Jagannath Rao (Sayaji Shinde), a manager who forges his signature, and gets him thrown in jail. Rao gets out, becomes big in some years, and comes back for revenge. He does what you know he'll do - he splits the family by befriending Lakshmi's brothers, and gets them to throw Lakshmi himself out of the family and the business. But Lakshmi cannot forget his loyalty, and continues as an ordinary worker in the very factory he once ran, so as to protect his brothers from Rao's wile.
There are quite a few scenes and dialogues that make you whistle and roar your approval, like ones where Venkatesh's sister comes to his rescue as he is getting insulted in the factory, and where Sunil slams his own father. The film, of course, belongs to Venkatesh. It has quite a bit of family sentiment, and an equal share of violence - Lakshmi makes a powerful enemy in Kolkata when he rescues the girl he falls in love with, Nandini (Nayana Tara), from a local don who then comes to Hyderabad for revenge.
When Vinayak displays his penchant for mass masala, the necessary by-product is that the women have nothing to do. Charmme is used strictly as a necessary ingredient for duets, while the pretty Nayana Tara has a relatively more meaningful role, "relatively" being the important word. Venu Madhav and Telangana Sakuntala are in a ticklish comic track. Venkatesh's own comic capability is, however, under-utilized - this film is primarily violence and sentiment.
The music is assembly-line, but might become popular since the film itself is likely to do pretty well. On the whole, this doesn't have a dull moment, and is the perfect film for Sankranti.